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Have fun with Wi-Fi in a rucksack

But just don’t expect to pick up your emails

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Now here’s an idea. A wireless access point (802.11b) with its own power supply, a PowerBook G4, blogging software, Apache server, GPS and PDA - all built into a rucksack you can walk around with.

The Wifi.Bedouin is the brainchild of electrical engineer Julian Bleecker, and he swears it works, even if he is fond of the kind of mindless tautology that over-earnest students and marketing men succumb.

As such, not only will you be walking around with a node on your back, you will also be challenging conventional assumptions, expanding the possible meaning and metaphors about access as well as reconsidering and questioning notions of virtuality, materiality, displacement, proximity and community. Aren’t you lucky?

There is only one problem - it doesn’t actually connect to the Internet, so surfing the Web and downloading your emails are right out. While this may appear to be a tad disadvantageous, it is part of the plan, according to Bleecker.

And, the funny thing is, once you think it over, it’s not as mad as it first seems. Bleecker will have you view the Bedouin as creating its own Web - and of course realising that the virtual and physical worlds are a much more entangled hybrid space, whatever that is supposed to mean.

However, when you consider some scenarios put forward and what it can actually allow you to do, things get more interesting. Bleecker suggests taking the Bedouin to a public place where people will expect to find a wireless access and, indeed, are looking for one.

The rucksack would, of course, pop up on available networks and people could connect to it. However, once there, they won’t find Net access but rather be logged onto whatever kind of Web the Bedouin’s server has been set up to create. As such, common websites can appear as anything the owner likes. Chatroom software and blogging software can mean anyone connected to the network - and only people in the immediate area - can talk to one another.

Or they can share music or other files. Or, he suggests, a backpack could be used in the middle of a protest or emergency to enable everyone in the area to immediately communicate with one another. We can see several situations where a moveable, location-specific network could be very useful, especially as wireless chips become installed in everything from mobiles to laptops.

We will of course ignore the potential for criminal activity and scams, and prefer to reflect instead on the pranks you could play on people using your own wireless Web.

There is one other problem, though. Bleecker only appears to have one at the moment and his website doesn’t make any mention of Bedouins up for sale, so its impact is likely to be localised around wherever on the east coast of the States, Bleecker currently is.

If only he could come up with a way of selling hundreds of thousands of these and then getting them to communicate with one another. Now that would be really useful. ®

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The Bedouin Web in a backpack

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